Tech Tip of the Week: Convert Images to Editable Documents Using Free OCR Tools

By on October 16, 2009, 4:41 AM
I guarantee that at least once in your life you've had to manually type the text of a printed paper into a digital document, and I'm sure halfway through you cursed at your keyboard and wished you could just scan the page into an editable text document. Sure, that can be easily taken care of with a scanner and OCR application at your disposal. But for those times when you are caught unprepared or on the go, a new Google Docs feature can help.

About two weeks back Google silently introduced a free OCR feature in Google Docs. Like any other OCR tool, this cloud-based service extracts text from images and then places it in your typical editable text-based document.

While all of this might seem magical, OCR services are not entirely new. There are quite a few of them out there -- some paid, others free, many install on your computer, and plenty are entirely Web-based options.

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User Comments: 2

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TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

To be honest, I've never had a lot of success with OCR scanners. By the time you finish going through the document to edit out all the bad conversions, you could have re-typed the document anyway. BUT...what the heck - I run into this type of need very often so I'll give Google's new app a shot. Thanks for the heads up. Would have never known about this as Google - for all their innovation - really does a lousy job at promoting their own products.

B00kWyrm B00kWyrm, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Hi Tom, Julio, (et al)...

My initial experiences with OCR were similar to what Tom reports.

I still have some of those earlier programs on my shelf. (Don't ask me why!)

By the time Omnipage had reached version 12, they were doing great for my needs.

I have kept updating, even once since they were acquired by Nuance.

Very satisfied: It even does a decent job when the background is cluttered enough to confuse some other programs.

If there are now free tools that are doing as well as Omnipage at this task, that is good news!

Omnipage is not a "cheap" program.

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